Thailand has faced a spike in methamphetamine trafficking across the Mekong River following the military coup in neighbouring Myanmar. Local volunteers along the river are now helping out to identify potential drug smugglers disguised as fishermen.
The volunteers tip off police when they see suspicious activity since they can’t make arrests and confronting a drug trafficker could be dangerous.
One volunteer says he tipped off police about suspected drug traffickers carrying packages from their boats and hidding the drugs in the grass along the riverbank. He says the suspects were later arrested with 5 million methamphetamine pills known as “yaba,” meaning “crazy drug.”
The Golden Triangle, where Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet, has been notorious for drug smuggling for decades. For many insurgent and militant groups in Myanmar border towns near Thailand and Laos, synthetic drug production is a main source of revenue.
Crime syndicates in Myanmar are likely using the military takeover to their advantage to strengthen their positions and increase synthetic drug production, according to Jeremy Douglas from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. He says “the pieces are in place to scale up” the drug trade.
Even though border patrol has tightened along the Thai-Myanmar border, drug traffickers are using a route through Laos, crossing the Mekong River to smuggle the drugs to Thailand. With the uptick in supply, the price of methamphetamine has dropped to a low of 50 baht (around $1.60 USD).
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